Saolta group outlines plans for LUH Haematology Oncology Day Unit as it acknowledges 'significant capacity deficit'

Saolta/Letterkenny University Hospital has acknowledged that the Haematology Oncology Day Unit ‘does require expansion’ and has told of short and long-term plans for future enhancement.

The plans were outlined by Ann. Cosgrove, COO, Saolta University Health Care Group at the Regional Health Forum West meeting this week, at which Donegal County Councillor Albert Doherty submitted a question about the unit.

The question read: “Will the HSE, a) Confirm the extension to the oncology unit at LUH is included in the 2023 Capital plan for prioritisation and consideration? b) Clarify the additional number of additional beds support sought for the haematology and oncology ward at LUH? c) Outline fully the specifics of the plans to improve the capacity and services of the haematology and oncology day-unit at LUH?”

Hide Ad

In recent weeks, Inishowen woman Roseena Toner launched a campaign and a petition for better cancer services and facilities in the hospital and county. She also spoke to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, during which she pointed out how Donegal has a population of over 160,000 people, and a cancer ward with just 11 beds.

Roseena Toner, speaking recently to Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly.

In response to Colr Doherty’s question, Ms A Cosgrove said: “LUH fully acknowledge the physical capacity constraints within which the Haematology and Medical Oncology Services operate. There is a significant capacity deficit in the Haematology Oncology Day Unit resulting from a combination of a reduction in treatment chair capacity from 13 to 11 in order to maintain social distancing in the context of Covid-19 and also the increase in patients requiring IV Chemotherapy on a Day Case basis.

"A number of measures to offset the reduction of the two treatment chairs have been implemented within LUH including enhanced use of oral chemotherapy where appropriate and relocation of patients requiring non-chemotherapy interventions. LUH acknowledges that the Unit does require expansion and whilst progressing a longer term strategy the hospital has also been working with HSE Estates to develop an interim enhancement of the unit.

Hide Ad

"The first phase of this interim enhancement is a capital project to provide a new Pharmacy AscepticP Unit at LUH. This relocation of the Asceptic unit, which is currently co-located with the Haematology Oncology Day Unit will provide an increase in space within the Day Unit. The project is being led by HSE Estates, who are currently finalising the brief in order to tender for a Design Team which is to be issued in the coming weeks. It is anticipated it will be commissioned by 2025 subject to funding and the requisite approvals (Capital and Planning Approvals).

"The relocation of the Asceptic unit which is currently co-located with the Haematology Oncology Day Unit will provide an increase in space within the Day Unit. The hospital is also working with Estates to extend the existing Day Unit and a Capital Project Submission to achieve this is being developed.

Hide Ad

" More immediately, the hospital in conjunction with HSE Estates will be replacing our oldest Pharmacy Isolator next week. This represents €100K capital investment in the Pharmacy Oncology Service this year. (A Pharmacy Isolator was replaced in 2020 through funding provided by the NCCP.) These developments are designed to provide interim enhancement to the Haematology Oncology Day Unit, as demand for this service is projected to significantly increase."

She continued: “The Saolta Group recognise the need for new cancer facilities across the West and Northwest and this has been included in the National Development Plan 2021 – 2030 in line with regional balanced development. LUH management with the Saolta Cancer Managed Clinical & Academic Network (MCAN) have plans to progress this cancer infrastructure through the Public Spending Code in the shortest timeframe possible so that Donegal patients have access to modern fit for purpose infrastructure in the future. The plan is to develop an Ambulatory Cancer Facility at LUH incorporating Haematology & Medical Oncology OPD suite, PASU and Rapid Access Breast Suite, including sufficient imaging to future proof the cancer programme at LUH.”

Hide Ad

In response, Colr Doherty acknowledged the work of Roseena and campaigners and said any plans must be expedited as a matter of priority.

"I’m pleased that there is the acknowledgement that there is a significant capacity deficit and that they intend to do something about it.

Hide Ad

"I’m relieved that they are working on interim things, such as the chair capacity that was reduced and are looking at a combination of items that will reduce the reduction of the treatment chairs. I’m also delighted that what they have acknowledged reinforces what Roseena and others were saying – they acknowledge that this unit does require expansion.”

"I said at the meeting that what we in the North West want is in line with their aspirations in one of the last lines - ‘that Donegal patients have access to modern fit for purpose infrastructure.’ They are recognising the need for new cancer facilities in the North West and say this is being included in the National Development Plan. It is very important that they ensure balanced, regional development, that’s what we are asking for – that the optimum treatments and facilities available are there for the people of Donegal.

Hide Ad

“It is positive that they have aspirations to progress the infrastructure and this now needs to be done as a matter of priority, I would hope that they get whatever paperwork etc that needs to be completed, undertaken as soon as possible and I would be hoping every local TD and public representative and every other community group who want to have these facilities in place, lobby together to ensure this takes place.”